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Literary Agent Interview: Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency

“Agent Advice” is a series of quick interviews with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This installment features Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. Nicole is a member of AAR, ACFW, RWA, and Mensa. She holds degrees in biology, psychology, and behavioral neuroscience. She also Tweets. She is seeking: romance, mainstream suspense, thrillers, mysteries, young adult, inspirational, science fiction/fantasy, and action/adventure.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Nicole Resciniti) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agencies.

This installment features Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. Nicole is a member of AAR, ACFW, RWA, and Mensa. She holds degrees in biology, psychology, and behavioral neuroscience. She also Tweets.

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

She is seeking: romance, mainstream suspense, thrillers, mysteries, young adult, inspirational, science fiction/fantasy, and action/adventure.

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GLA: How and why did you become an agent?

NR: I began by assisting Mary Sue Seymour founder of The Seymour Agency. She is a brilliant, incredibly kind mentor and she presented me with a great opportunity. I am eternally grateful to Mary Sue. After studying the contractual and editorial side of the industry, I received my accreditation from AAR. I began building my client list about six months ago. Mary Sue doesn’t represent any sci-fi/fantasy, urban fantasy, middle grade or young adult, so I concentrated on acquiring in those areas. I have since branched out, representing materials across most genres, including select nonfiction projects. I do not handle erotica or poetry.

Why did I become an agent? Because it’s the best job in the world.

GLA: What's something you've sold that comes out soon that you're excited about?

NR: I have several series launching in 2012. Amanda Carlson, Julie Ann Walker, and Macy Beckett—all debut authors—signed three-book deals. Amanda’s UF [urban fantasy] series kicks off with Full Blooded and will release simultaneously here and in the UK in the fall of 2012. Her publisher Orbit is giving her a big “push,” and this is definitely an author to watch. Julie Ann Walker’s Black Knight Inc. series is some of the best romantic suspense I’ve come across. Her publisher, Sourcebooks, is giving her back-to-back releases in August, September and October of 2012. The first title in that series is Deadly Secrets. Macy Beckett blends humor and sexual tension as well as the genre pros. She launches her debut contemporary series in September 2012. Shaken, Stirred and Sultry is the first novel in her Sultry Springs, Texas series, where first loves find second chances.

I am thrilled and honored to have contributed to the sales of these authors.

(Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

GLA: Besides “good writing,” and “voice,” what are you looking for right now and not getting?

NR: I would love to see more romance (all genres) and sci-fi/fantasy/UF. I’ve found most of my clients through slush, so I’m a huge fan of it. My e-mail inbox is a virtual scratch-off ticket, and every e-mail I open could be a big winner. I request the first five pages pasted into the body of the e-mail. It is always my greatest hope that I’ll start reading and won’t want to stop. When that happens, I immediately request the partial or complete.

GLA: On the flip side of that, what are you tired of seeing? In a recent interview, you mentioned that the YA paranormal market is pretty saturated, and you’d like to see something “without wings or fangs.” Does this mean you’re more open to contemporary projects specifically within young adult, or are you looking for other fantastic creatures—just not of the winged or fanged variety?

NR: Since the aforementioned interview, I have been inundated with YA. I think most people read Harry Potter or Twilight or Percy Jackson and thought, “I can write a young adult novel.” The majority of submissions I receive are quite good, but it is exceedingly difficult to stand out in this market (especially with paranormal YA). Other material I receive isn’t suited for YA. Capturing the voice, attitude and angst of teenagers is no small feat. I commend every author who tries.

What am I looking for in YA right now? It’s hard to specify. Fangs and fur have peaked, but Dystopian, mermaids, and snarky girls have all been done too. Trends surface and fade very quickly here. By the time most trends are identified, they have already passed. I can’t offer a specific “story,” but I’d like to see something that incorporates elements of action/adventure, romance (it’s become the norm, I doubt I could sell a YA without some romantic element), and a strong voice.

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GLA: Your agency bio refers to you as a “consummate science geek.” What draws you to science?

NR: My background is in behavioral neuroscience and biology. I’m fascinated by the mechanics of the world in which we live. Books with a scientific edge appeal to me. My propensity for science extends into my reading. I analyzed the reasons for reading, and assessed five general motivations, the five E’s. I do a workshop on this. For most readers, it boils down to: Education, Escape, Enjoyment, Experience, and/or Enlightenment. I list the reasons because if you can incorporate all of these into a novel, chances are you’ll have a bestseller on your hands—and a book I’ll fight to represent. I like to learn something new as I read. I like to find myself submerged in a plot and the possibility of it occurring in reality (or an alternate reality, as the case may be).

GLA: And what kinds of sci-fi projects tend to sucker you in? Do you notice any trends in what you tend to represent? Subgenres or elements that particularly grab you?

NR: In sci-fi, I like strong, imperfect characters, females who are more than objects to be rescued, and escalating action/tension. In addition to the classics (Tolkien, Herbert, Orwell) I love the new voices of sci-fi/fantasy, especially George R. R. Martin, and Jim Butcher, and Linnea Sinclair.
As far as “trends that I like to represent” the only trend is my clients. Every author I represent is intelligent, motivated, and talented. The genres, writing styles, and voices vary extensively. By extensively, I mean I sell stories that range from staid Amish cozy mysteries to f-bomb dropping, kick-ass suspense and UF. The only common thread is the high quality of writing.

(Find more science fiction literary agents.)

GLA: How do you like your queries? Do you want the writer to jump in with the logline/go straight into the pitch, or do you prefer a more personalized approach right off the bat?

NR: I love a query that reads like the back of a book cover. I especially love a query that reads like a book cover of a book I would want to buy. If it opens with a hook and follows with a blurb, I know the author has done their homework. I don’t think a personalized approach is necessary. I do encourage all writers to treat their query as a job interview. Be professional. Be concise. Here’s a quick heads-up on what you probably do NOT want to say:

“Hello Agent (or insert wrong/misspelled name),

I have written an absolute masterpiece. It is a 200k word epic, romance, historical, sci-fi YA mystery. It’s my first book and I took ten years to write it. It’s comparable to (insert NYT Bestseller’s name). I don’t have any writing experience, but my (insert husband/wife/mom/BFF) said it’s the best thing he/she ever read. I already attached it. So take a look and answer me right away.”

Don’t laugh. I receive a lot of these. And a few have turned out to be great stories simply in need of a little editing. Most, however, are projects that are NOT ready for submission. I’m going to be totally honest here and admit that statements like the above (or any combination therein) form a negative impression in my mind. I want a professional, prolific client who knows their craft and understands the market. Don’t lie in your query, but always put your best face forward.

GLA: If you were to Google a prospective client, what are three things you’d like to pop up in your search right away? What should all new writers be doing?

NR: Website, social networks, blog. All writers should join review groups, establish an Internet presence and gather fans/friends/followers through social media networking. Editors look for this. The majority of marketing and publicity falls on the author’s shoulders. Building a strong foundation now will guarantee more exposure after the sale. Additionally, contacts made through critique groups, writer’s groups, and other associations can foster friendships and opportunities to promote your material. Cultivating these marketing tools now will save you time and energy later, allowing you to concentrate on your writing. I spoke with an editor at RWA Nationals who admitted when it came down to a choice between two equally qualified, well-written proposals, her pub board would determine who to buy based on the social media presence. If that isn’t an incentive to start tweeting/blogging/Facebooking—I don’t know what is.

(How to Sell Pieces to Magazines and Newspapers.)

GLA: What’s your take on all the changes happening in the industry right now? When are we going to figure this all out? And any projections for what’s to come?

NR: The industry is changing and we (publishers, agents, authors) have no choice but to evolve with it. There is more material available through far more avenues than we had ever deemed possible. This isn’t necessarily bad. Royalties will need to reflect this, the general publishing model will need to adapt, and the methods by which authors target readers may change, but ultimately, there are far more opportunities to reach new readers, and I’m optimistic about that.
Great material will continue to sell.

GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?

NR: I love to cook.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

NR: Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Any dream is achievable if you work hard enough.

This guest column by Ricki Schultz,
freelance writer and coordinator of
The Write-Brained Network. You can
visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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